Foodservice Consultants Studio in Henrico, Va., demonstrates a truly diverse breadth of knowledge and skills.The long list of credentials that follow Amy Hegarty’s name -- CID, ASID, CFSP, LEED Green Associate -- comes by way of a dedication to always wanting to learn more. Her 10-plus-year tenure with
Growing up surrounded by her architect father’s drawings, Hegarty knew she wanted to become a designer; she just didn’t know in what capacity. Her foray into the foodservice industry started with a part-time job at a design firm while in interior design school at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“Back when there were actual bulletin boards; there was a job posting at a company that did retail and foodservice design and it sounded interesting, so I applied and got the job,” says Hegarty. She gained experience in designing a variety of spaces and kitchens while at the firm, including stadium, airport, restaurant and retail projects. “Those were the things we weren’t learning in school at the time. In our hospitality design classes, we would design the lobbies and front-of-house and simply block out the kitchen knowing someone else would do that.”
That someone would later become Hegarty. She eventually went on to land a job at KSA Interiors, a traditional interior design office, where she spent two years as a project manager. She found she missed the foodservice side. Hegarty devoted more attention to the kitchen design opportunities that came her way while at the firm.
The leap into fully focused kitchen design work came during The NAFEM Show 2007 in Atlanta when Hegarty met up with Larry Huber, then a principal at Foodservice Consultants Studio (FCS). “Two weeks later I was working for him,” she says.
Now as an equal partner at FCS with the other four principals, Hegarty works on a variety of projects, from military and government to college/universities, corporate dining, healthcare, senior living and some restaurants. Her main focus, however, rests in designing kitchens for K-12 schools. Hegarty says she’s been enjoying the drastic changes in the segment most recently as yet another challenge to tackle.
“Schools are doing more fresh produce as well as sourcing more from local farmers,” Hegarty says. “This greatly impacts their storage, prep areas, how many sinks they need, and there is a much greater requirement for coolers versus freezers. There also has to be more prep area space for chopping vegetables and even handling fresh meat.”
On the design side, school foodservice continues to change as spaces get smaller and production schedules are compressed. “That’s been a very recent switch, and I’m not sure why,” Hegarty says. “School projects used to take 18 months to 2 years, now they can be done in under a year.”
Even though the timelines are faster, Hegarty treats each kitchen at each school as its own, individual project with its own needs. “Some architects tend to think that the kitchen design should go fast because they will say, ‘aren’t these just copies of other schools?’ But no, I find kitchens to be very personal, even in K-12. Some schools want to use gas, not electric, and that’s a huge change. There might be a different number of students, so you need a different menu. There may be more or less space or a different type of layout. And then foodservice directors have their own, individual ideas.”
Hegarty’s strong attention to detail helps her accommodate these various changes while still working fast to get the designs completed.
When it comes to design in general, Hegarty says she’s fully satisfied with the creativity and challenges of foodservice kitchen design and has no desire to go back to straight interior design. “I always enjoyed more of the form and function of interior design versus the decorative, so I enjoy kitchen design because it feels like I’m constantly working on a puzzle,” says Hegarty. She also enjoys listening to the client and the project execution phase.
At the moment Hegarty’s managing 30 projects at one time, and she keeps an elaborate spreadsheet to track all the deadlines, project players and other details. Her ability to keep things well organized came in handy most recently with a dining project at the University of Lynchburg. FCS worked on the concept for this space for 15 months, but the contractor only had three months to build it before school started in August.
. “We had to do everything we could to work very quickly because we knew there was nothing that could hold this up,” she says. “We knew the school couldn’t tell its first-year students coming in that they couldn’t feed them in the main dining room.”
Communication tools are essential for Hegarty, who works remotely like the rest of the FCS team. That translates to online chat tools, video conferencing and cloud-based sharing platforms for documents.
Maintaining regular communication with architects is also an important part of the job, says Hegarty. “I like to be involved early on and help educate them about kitchens without stepping on the architect or interior designers’ toes.” She credits her interior design certification with helping her understand projects from a higher level as well as “speak the language.”
Hegarty’s work with architects dovetailed nicely into earning her credential as a LEED Green Associate when LEED projects first entered the foodservice space. Her background in sustainable design continues to play a role in virtually every project to this day. “I’m just glad I was a part of that early movement that is now almost ingrained in our industry.”
Hegarty’s active with the American Society of Interior Designers as a member and past president of the Virginia chapter, and she maintains her ASID certification. She’s also a Certified Foodservice Professional (CFSP), a certified ServSafe Food Protection Manager and member of the Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI), having served on a variety of committees and as a member of the editorial board for the association’s quarterly print publication.
“We all joke in this industry that you don’t get out of it really easily,” says Hegarty. “I find that to be very true.”
That’s especially the case when you are good at what you do and have a strong support network. “Amy represents what every professional consultant should strive to be,” says Doug Huber, CFA, CFSP, FCSI and co-principal at FCS. “She is highly energetic, creative and puts our clients’ needs as a top priority. She also is always there for all of us at Foodservice Consultants Studio. Amy is an invaluable leader in our organization and a great industry leader.”
Insights and Anecdotes
- Industry Involvement: FCSI, member and editorial board member; American Society of Interior Designers, member and past president of the Virginia chapter
- Career Driver: Creating a workplace where respect and collaboration are honored and nurtured.
- Influential Life Experience: Taking on more responsibility at work when sickness hit our company. Realizing that life is fragile and can change in a blink of an eye. Be grateful for every moment.
- How She Approaches Change: “Change?! Do we have to? Routine is my friend.”